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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The United Way got this one very wrong.

I was in the car tonight with the radio on as background noise. I heard a baby-like voice talking, so I turned the radio up in time to hear a commercial that said something like this:

"I cry because I can't talk. But if I could talk, I would tell you that at the daycare where you drop me off everyday, they put me in my seat and leave me alone all day. I would tell you that I'm not learning anything."

It was an ad for the United Way of Central Indiana's Child Care Answers service. And it made me angry.

Here's the TV version of the ad:

The radio version was more offensive, I think. There was no cute baby to distract me from really hearing the words.

The service is a good one (at least the idea is -- I've not actually used the service myself). It can help parents make informed decisions when choosing a child care provider for their precious charges. That's a good thing.

What is not a good thing is the United Way's decision to stick the knife in the collective gut of every working mom, to play on a parent's fears and guilt, instead of appealing to their desire to make the best choices for their children.

The United Way could have taken this path to getting the message out:

"We know that you want the best for your child. Our Child Care Answers service can help you determine what that is when it comes to choosing a child care provider."

If they wanted to use the voice of child, they could have had the same child in a vibrant care setting saying "Thanks Mom for using Child Care Answers."

The ad goes on to say that even if you are using vouchers to pay for child care, your kid deserves quality. What that says to me is that United Way knows their target audience includes economically-challenged families, likely single mothers, for whom the question to work or not work isn't about being able to afford a summer vacation or a new minivan, but who work to keep the lights on and food in the refrigerator. In my book, that makes sticking in the knife and turning up the fear and the guilt even worse.

I've been a supporter of the United Way every year for the past 7 (since I went back to work and began having my contributions deducted automatically from every paycheck). I believe the work they do in my community is important. But their misguided efforts in this ad campaign will make me think a little harder about how they go about doing their business and how much I want to support that.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

I don't wanna

Today has been declared "family clean-up day." We are all going to descend on the basement and clean it out. Then, once that is done, it's on to the bedrooms. It needs to happen. It's gonna happen.

But I don't wanna.

There is nothing on the calendar from 11:30am on. Do you know how rare that is? (Well, if you're a parent of school age kids, you probably do.) There are no games, no plays, no birthday parties or sleepovers. So of course it's the perfect day for a much needed deep clean.

But I don't wanna.

Because it's also the perfect day for reading the book on my Nook that I am thoroughly enjoying, even though I can't remember the name of it. It's the perfect day for watching movies, tooling around on Facebook, writing a few blog posts.

In the basement there are Legos and video games out of control and Christmas stuff that is waiting, boxed up, to be put in the storage room. In the bedrooms, there are mountains of laundry -- probably not all of which is dirty. (You know how I feel about that.)  All those things need to be dealt with, I know.

But I don't wanna.

What I want to do is take a nap and thumb through catalogs and in general laze about the day.  I don't wanna be the grown up, cracking the whip and barking orders. I don't wanna be the foot soldier, carrying out those orders and hoisting bags of trash and Goodwill items. But I will. I will pull on my big girl panties and fix my eyes on the prize of a clean basement and bedrooms that do not threaten to do bodily harm via ill-placed piles of clothes. I will cheer on the troops and lead by example.

But I don't wanna.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Read this book with an open mind

I don't typically write book reviews -- and I don't plan to make it a habit. But there is a book I read recently that I want to tell you about, even if doing so might be a little risky. It's timely, though that is just a coincidence.

The book is Unplanned: The Dramatic True Story of a Former Planned Parenthood Leader's Eye-Opening Journey Across the Life Line by Abby Johnson. (Note: This is not an affiliate link.)

Now don't stop reading here. This is not going to be a preachy post.

Though I've never marched in a protest, prayed before an abortion clinic, or even read any other books on the subject, I am pro-life. I believe life begins at conception. I don't waver in my belief, but I am not outspoken about it, either. I don't have bumper stickers on my car and I don't place judgements on anyone who thinks differently.

So I'm not sure why I felt drawn to reading the book. I wasn't sure what to expect, but what I read was, in my opinion, a balanced and caring view of the people on both sides of the issue.

Why you should read Unplanned if you are pro-life
This book will not preach to the choir as much as you might expect it would. Living through Abby's experiences, I began to understand how someone might see their involvement in Planned Parenthood as a service. Abby describes some of her former co-workers -- and even her former self -- as being truly concerned about the women who came to them. For me, this book put a more human face on some of the people on the opposite side of the abortion fence.

Why you should read Unplanned if you are pro-choice
Part of the reason why I'm not terribly vocal about my views on the abortion issue is that I don't want to be characterized as a crazy zealot who hoists graphic pictures of dead babies. This book sheds light that stereotype, too.

Regardless of where you fall in your views on the abortion issue, this is a book worth reading. But please read it with an open mind, setting aside judgement to just try to understand why someone else might believe as they do. I'm not sure the book will sway you from whatever you believe when you first open the cover. But I do think it will make you think.

Monday, January 14, 2013

10 ways to defunkify your day

After some discussion on the 4th Frog Facebook page, it seems that several people had a case of the Mondays going on today, where they were just feeling in a funk.

Some days are like that, aren't they? I know I've been there. So I started thinking about what I do to defunkify my day. Here are some things that work for me:

  1. Have a good cry. You know, one of those ugly cries like Meg Ryan had in "When Harry Met Sally" when Sally found out that her former boyfriend was getting married. Or an even uglier cry, like Julia Roberts had in Truvy's beauty salon in "Steel Magnolias."
  2. Watch a favorite movie. It doesn't have to be a funny movie, necessarily. Just one that is so familiar to you, it feels like putting on a cozy sweater. For me, it's "The Holiday" or one of the two noted in #1.
  3. Eat ice cream. Not the relatively healthy soft-serve stuff. I'm talking the Ben & Jerry's Chubby Hubby or Jerry Garcia.
  4. Go for a walk/run/bike ride. I know, it's totally counter to #3, but the truth of the matter is, sometimes exchanging mass quantities of oxygen and carbon dioxide in my lungs makes the rest of me feel better, too.
  5. Color. Pick up the crayons and a coloring book and color. Markers won't do it. Colored pencils, maybe. And it has to be a coloring book. Drawing my own pictures is too much pressure when I'm in a funk.
  6. Phone a friend. It probably won't net you a million dollars, but it will likely help lift the funk.
  7. Pump up the jams. (That's listen to music for those of you not quite as hip as me...insert totally embarrassed teenager here...) My choice to break out of a funk is either show tunes or praise & worship music. But if Florence & the Machine or Led Zeppelin work for you, go for it.
  8. Treat yourself -- a mani/pedi, a trip to Target or the Hallmark store all by your lonesome, a new pair of shoes. Don't break the bank to do it, but if there is any way you can give yourself a little retail therapy, it can help.
  9. Take a long hot bath or shower and wash the day away. Something about stepping out of the shower all clean and warm gives me a little lift.
  10. Pray. I know, it should probably #1 on the list. I'm working on that. Pray. Out loud. Silently. With a friend. In a church. In your car. Memorized prayers. Whatever is on your heart. I can't promise it will work as instantly as ice cream, but it will probably stick with you longer. 
Oh, and if you've been in a funk for a while and none of the above seem to work, then please consider this last one:

11. Pop a pill. I'm not advocating illegal self-medication. Sometimes what we think might just be a funk is really true depression, which is not weakness. It's a real, medical condition that has real, medical options for treatment. After trying to white-knuckle my way through the past three months or so, I finally waved the white flag of sanity and am back to taking an antidepressant. It doesn't take away those things that were putting me in a never ending funk, but it does allow me to cope with them better. 

Is there something I missed that is a good way to break the fog of a funk? Please, share what works for you.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Paranoid or prudent? You make the call.

Last night I was at Target wandering the toy aisles just to see what was on clearance when a man approached me. He was African and dressed nicely -- a winter hat, jeans, leather coat. I had my cell phone in my hand because I'd been texting Annie. He told me, with a foreign accent, that his phone had "powered down" and wondered if he could use my cell phone to call his friend to come pick him up. 

I said no. Well, really I said, "No, I'm sorry, my phone is about to die," which wasn't true, but seemed nicer than a flat out "no."

He thanked me and walked on. I saw him a few aisles over approach another customer. 

I thought about what had happened and wondered if I had been wrong to say no. Certainly it was wrong to make up a story. I could have just said, "No, I'm sorry."

As he walked away, I thought about what made me uncomfortable about the situation. It wasn't the color of his skin. It was two things. 

The first was his accent. In the 15 seconds that it took for me to hear his request and formulate a response, I made a judgement that he might call some faraway country and rack up big charges on my account. Or that he might, somehow with me standing right there, get me caught up in a big scheme. The fact that we were as far away from the entrance to the store as possible was the second red flag for me. If he was arranging a ride home, why wouldn't he be nearer to the exit? 

Was I being paranoid? Prudent? I've been the target of a scam before, so I'm sure that colored my response. What would you have done?

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Something smells good in here (Giveaway)

If you walked into my house anytime between a few weeks before Christmas and now, you might have thought that I was baking up a delicious storm. You would have been wrong.

What I was doing was enjoying the scent of Cozy Vanilla Sugar, part of the Holiday Collection sent to me by the smell-good folks at Febreze.

When Febreze first came out, Mike and I regarded it as a way to get the smell out of places where the dog had sat too long or where a naked-bottomed toddler had learned the hard way while potty training. It was an odor neutralizer. Not having a dog or toddler around for a while, I'd kind of gotten disconnected from the brand.

Then, after I'd responded to a giveaway offer in an e-mail (I do have two stinky boys), the Febreze Holiday Collection arrived on my doorstep and I was plenty surprised.

Febreze Holiday CollectionThis is what I received:
  • a Vanilla Sugar Febreze candle
  • a can of Vanilla Sugar Febreze Air Effects Spray
  • a Vanilla Sugar Febreze NOTICEables® wall plug-in
  • a two-pack of NOTICEables® re-fills
My favorite was the NOTICEables® plug-in. I put one downstairs in the guest bathroom. The scent was so welcoming. There is a switch on the back of the plug in that allows you to control the rate of the scent release. When set to "high", you could smell Vanilla Sugar as soon as you walked in the front door. The low setting contained the scent mostly to the bathroom. Either way, the smell was soft and natural, which is a good thing if you ask me.

Annie quickly absconded with the other one for her bedroom. She is a scentaholic -- and I was happier to let her have the plug-in than the candle, which I put on the kitchen windowsill.

Here is what Annie thinks of the Febreze NOTICEables® plug-in:

Speaking of magic -- that's one of the six scents in the Febreze Holiday Collection:
  • Apple Spice & Delight: The warming scent of fresh-baked apples coated with sweet cinnamon (available only online) 
  • Cozy Vanilla Sugar: Sweet as notes of vanilla that comfort you like a cocoon of blankets
  • Cranberries and Frost: Rich as ripe cranberries and frost on a white winter’s day
  • Glistening Alpine: As soothing as a tree-lined mountainside glistening with the scent of pine
  • Winter Magic & Glow: Crisp as sunshine-lit icicles in fresh, frosty air 
  • Holiday Bloom & Cheer: As cheerful as a chorus of holiday aromas blended with winter blossoms
I think the Winter Magic and the Cranberries and Frost especially would carry right through the Valentine Season.

The Giveaway

Not only did Febreze give me a gift pack of yummy-smelling stuff (and information about the product), they want you to have one too. One lucky 4th Frog reader will receive a gift pack that includes a $10 Febreze coupon booklet and a $15 Visa gift card! If you use those coupons and watch the sales, you can snag a bunch of Febreze items with the Visa gift card.

I'm going to keep this one simple.

To enter, leave a comment with the scent you would choose if you are the big winner. For an extra entry, like The 4th Frog Blog on Facebook and leave a comment below letting me know you did (or that you already do). The winner will be drawn at 9pm, Wednesday, January 9. The prize pack will be sent directly from Febreze to the lucky winner.

Thanks to Febreze for this smellarific opportunity. I can't wait to see what springtime scents are available! You can keep up with Febreze on Facebook or on Twitter, too.

NOTE: Febreze® does not represent or warrant the accuracy of any statements or product claims made here, nor does it endorse any opinions expressed within this blogsite.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Epiphany from a stranger's funeral

The idea of New Year's resolutions has been nagging at me lately. I really hate resolutions because in order to make them, I first have to make a list of all the things that are wrong with my life or at least a list of things I could be doing better. The time it would take me to make that list would take me half way to 2014. I can't think of a more depressing way to start the New Year.

However, I had an epiphany about resolutions while I was at a funeral of a man I did not know today. Charlie was an altar server for the funeral Mass. Because this was the first funeral he'd served, I decided to stay as a show of moral support. Besides, burying the dead is a corporal work of mercy.

Anyway, at the beginning of the Mass, they read a letter from the young father who had died of cancer (34 years old, preschool age kids, so sad). The gist of his message was "be kind." Individual acts of kindness have the power to change the world, he'd written.

This wasn't news to me. I've heard it before. You probably have, too. But in the context of a brain focused on New Year's resolutions, the sentiment had a lot of meaning. Suddenly, I realized perhaps why I hate New Year's resolutions so much (aside from the inevitable failure and subsequent guilt).

I thought maybe if I weren't so busy making resolutions all about me (lose 50 pounds, curse less, read more, be more organized), I would find them easier to make and keep. I'm not talking about creating resolutions for other people to keep -- I tried that once. I'm talking about using my resolutions to bring about good in my small corner of the world.

So that's my resolution -- to be a joy-spreader, a do-gooder, a kindness-sharer. I could list ways in which to make that happen (I have a few ideas already), but I'm just going to be open the opportunity to do good in some small way each day.

You know what? I'm not dreading it at all.

Happy 2013, everyone. And thanks for the new perspective, Shawn.